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Real-Time Segmentation Levels the Playing Field
Equip your contact center agents with the tools they need.
Posted Apr 30, 2008
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Today's consumers are hyperinformed and flush with power. Two decades ago, they shopped at the closest retailer and paid whatever price was on the tag. The Internet, however, has shifted the balance of power in the merchant-consumer relationship. Consumers now research potential purchases in surprising depth, then execute them with any merchant on the planet. In hopes of standing out from the pack, consumer-facing companies continue to invest millions in advertising. When a consumer responds and phones the company, the merchant has partially succeeded but is still at a disadvantage. Although the consumer is armed with volumes of information, contact center agents aren't equipped with any equivalent tools. They're flying blind: They have no clue who is on the line. Through no fault of their own, the wrong agents often make the wrong pitches with the wrong messaging to the wrong people. As a result, the best prospects often slip through their fingers. Imagine you're a credit-card issuer trying to sign up subscribers to a gold card. You publish a special toll-free number in golfing and fashion magazines. When the ads hit the newsstands, the calls start coming in. Caller A has no chance of qualifying for the card, but you spend 10 minutes on the phone with him. Caller B is qualified for the card and ready to sign up, but after nine minutes on hold, he abandons the call because you took so long with Caller A. Caller C is not only qualified for the gold card, but your platinum card as well -- you should be trying to sell her the platinum -- but, hey, this is a phone line for the gold card. Not very good, is it? It's time for consumer-facing companies to get smarter and level the playing field. It's time for companies to take all the knowledge they have about their customers, all their selling skill and all the market research available on consumers as a whole -- and apply it to brand-new prospects before the agent even picks up the phone. With this capability, companies will know before calls connect who is most likely to convert and who has the highest value. They can route the caller to the most appropriate agent, prioritize callers in the queue, customize sales scripts, direct low-value customers to more cost-effective methods and provide better caller experiences -- all based on the profile of the caller. In this scenario, the company is on equal footing with the consumer, making better use of all the marketing dollars the company has invested. This is real-time segmentation, a process that applies predictive analytics at the point of contact -- i.e., the inbound call, a Web site or brick-and-mortar store visit -- not just the existing customer database.
Ideally, applying real-time segmentation starts with an analysis of the unique needs, wants, attitudes, purchasing behaviors, etc., of your customers and markets. From this information, profiles are created that reflect a consumer's propensity and ability to buy, as well as any other appropriate factors or behaviors. Next, this segmentation technology is integrated with the company's CRM system. When a call comes in to a contact center, for example, the system identifies the caller by phone number and triggers a corresponding consumer profile, directing the caller to the right place in the right queue with the right agent delivering the right message and improving caller experiences. At this point, the company is no longer flying blind. Operators are marketing directly to consumers on a foundation of sophisticated, relevant and actionable information, improving conversion rates and customer value. Every operator in the contact center is now as good as the company's best agent and as savvy as the entire market-research department. All the company's marketing intelligence is engaged at the point of contact and the new point-of-contact agility can be leveraged throughout the rest of the organization, from advertising and direct marketing to strategic planning. With real-time segmentation, analytics are actionable, making the company as smart about its prospects and customers as the consumer is about the company. The balance of power is now restored.

About the Author Robert Nascenzi is executive vice president of Targusinfo and general manager of its ElementOne team.
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